19 February 2006

This weekend we fell in love with New Zealand.

Our plan was to drive to Mt. Cook and hike to Mueller hut for the weekend. The hike is supposed to be 5k directly uphill. (It should be called up mountain…) Our plans were almost foiled by this:

Remember when our spare tire got stolen? Yeah, good thing my husband is his father’s son and insisted we go to the junk yard and buy a new one. So we got that changed out and were back on our way fairly quickly.

Soon enough the scenery started to get pretty:

This is the Church of the Good Shepherd on Lake Tekapo in the Two Thumb Mountain Range.

See the seagull on the chimney in the back? Picture perfect! (Except for the obnoxious German tourist that kept walking into our pictures, even though we nicely stood to the side for 10 hours while they took 50 million pictures.)

The drive continued with more beautiful views:

When we got to Mt. Cook village we were a little nervous because no place seemed to have any beds available. We finally ended up in a mountaineering clubs bunk house. We had this lovely room all to ourselves.

But it was clean, dry, warm and quiet. The next morning we got an early start to climb the mountain. Here ‘s what the view was like as we started:

The snow covered peak in the middle is Mt. Cook. Mt. Cook is the tallest peak in NZ. Sir Edmund Hillary (a Kiwi, the first man to climb Mt. Everest) climbed it early in his climbing career. Mt. Ollivea, the mountain our hut was on was actually the first mountain he ever climbed. So, I guess that means we are well on our way to heading to Nepal and climbing Everest.

It was a really steep climb, and all upmountain. No flat areas, no downhills, just up up up up up:

See me negotiating the “steps?”

We stopped for lunch at the tarns. Tarns are lakes in mountains. Here’s a pretty tarn picture.

We were making pretty good progress and enjoying the views. We got a fellow tramper to snap a picture.

Little did I know the worst part of the climb was yet to come! After more climbing straight uphill we came to a section of boulder hopping and then a rock scramble up a scree slope. We were rewarded when we got to the top with another amazing view.

Well, I thought it was the top. The we went around the bend and there was more UP!! First I dropped my pack for a quick look at the view.

The grey part in the middle is a glacier. It was much farther away than it seems. And much higher too.

Finally, we made it all the way to the top. The wardens at the hut took a picture of us when we got there.

They were standing on the front deck of the hut when they took this, so that should give you an idea of what our view out the windows was like!!

The warden at the hut let Brian try out his tripod to take some pictures of the sunset. Of course Brian loved the tripod so now we get to buy one of those and lug it around with us up and down mountains. Here’s Mt. Cook at sunset:

And here is the view behind the hut at sunset:

Just to give you an idea of how much elevation we gained, here is a view of the car park where we left our car.

It’s at the end of the little road in the middle of the picture. We climbed quite a ways! Brian also took a picture of the pools at the bottom of the glacier. The color was amazing.

At one point we saw some people kayaking through the water. The glacier scrapes rocks off the walls as it moves and leaves huge piles of gravel behind once it moves or melts.

Originally we planned to stay two nights at Mt. Cook but after climbing down the mountain we decided to drive over to the West Coast and explore that side of the island for a few days. Here’s another view of Mt. Cook.

This picture doesn’t even do the color of the water justice. It was the same turquoise color you see in pictures of the carribbean and just as clear.

We drove to the little seaside town of Haast and stayed in a little roadside motel that night. On our way we got some more good views:

We stopped at some pretty amazing sights along the way. Like this waterfall:

We also stopped at Fox Glacier, and got to walk within 20 meters of the glacier. The glacier is advancing at about 1 meter per day so it’s not safer to go any closer. While we were looking at it lots of rocks and ice were falling off. You can hire a tour guide and walk on top of the glacier but we were short on time and cash so we had to pass.

The next night we stayed in the little down of Punakaiki. They have a rock formation they call Pancake Rocks:

I guess they’re called that because of all the layers. There is also a blowhole here but it’s only active at high tide and we were there at low tide.

Our drive continued north along the coast. The beauty of this country is amazing, and this is the day we really fell in love with the island. Every turn the road took revealed another amazing sight.

We just kept saying, it’s so pretty, it’s so pretty over and over. Brian took over 1 GB of pictures, over 350 individual shots. There are so many more I’m not putting up! The last place we stopped on the way back to Chch was the seal colony at Cape Foulwind. This was neat to see because there were a lot of seal pups that were only a few weeks old. Here’s a picture of them playing in the “nursery pool”, a natural little wading pool that was calm enough for them to learn to swim in. They were swimming around like little pros already.

And here’s a baby seal and a mom seal enjoying the rocks:

The last picture is of a roadside sign you definitely wouldn’t see in Ohio!

We didn’t see any penguins even though we looked!

All in all we had an amazing weekend exploring a whole new part of the country we hadn’t been to yet. It’s made us even more excited to spend the next 2 weeks seeing more new sights!


Anonymous Padre said...

Absolutely incredible photos to go with a great adventure story. We were envious before and now we are becoming...
Glad to hear that you returned safely. And that you had a spare tire when you actually needed one. Perhaps the entire tire/junkyard industry is a Kiwi conspiracy to take a few more dollars each week from the Yanks?
Love, DadM

20 February, 2006 06:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could the scenery get ANY more beautiful? We are absolutely in awe of these photos - and can only imagine the pictures probably don't do the real thing justice! You guys look incredible at the top! I love the baby seals! We definitely have to get together when you return for the full slide slow!

We miss you guys - Kate, we had your parents over for dinner (spaghetti) last night. Erin and Brad and the kids came, too. Gavin was flirting big time with them!

Keep the photos coming!
Love, Kristin and Mark

20 February, 2006 06:46  
Anonymous Toni said...

You two are truly making the most of your time in NZ. You are really turning into climbers. I can see you now planning vacations arounds the world to hit various ranges. Just keeps us all in the loop with these blogs!
Your pictures are fantastic. I think a polarizing filter could bring out more of the blue in the water. The skylight filter helps a little, but it basically is there to protect your lens. Maybe Brian could use the tripod as a trekking pole and camera support, Kate.
Remind us again of your trip schedule and work schedule. It doesn't seem like this is your last week to work, I'm a little confused.
Please keep up the blog. We all enjoy it.
Love, Mom M

20 February, 2006 07:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the pictures. The scenery is beautiful. You two are becoming quite the climbers. Hope your having a great trip.

20 February, 2006 08:27  
Anonymous Carrie said...

Hey you two! I am actually at work right now looking at your site again. I was a little worried, you haven't posted anything since the 14th! As you can tell work is a little slow and it's Monday too! Nothing exciting is going on here. Same cold weather, yesterday it dropped to 7 degrees....Brrrr. I am so awestrucken over the views. It seems New Zealand has a little bit of everything- glaciers, mountains, flowers, warm weather, ect... What a romantic place. Hmmm.... maybe Kate will come back pregnant? j/k. Well we miss you here, take care and continue to have an amazing time.

20 February, 2006 08:57  
Anonymous Ivory said...

Hey have you guys been to where they made the movie Lord of the Rings? Or is that too far? What can I say but the pictures are beautiful.

20 February, 2006 10:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow!! Those were some incredible shots!!!! Everything just looks magical! I'm glad to hear you're enjoying everything. Have a fantastic rest of your trip!
Jodi, Josh, and Hannah

20 February, 2006 10:15  
Anonymous Kevin said...

So when are you guys going to sponsor my trip to NZ so I can see these places myself? Let me know and I will start packing my bags.

Thanks again for the generous offer!


p.s. Lisa wants to go too, so double the amount on the check.

20 February, 2006 10:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to let you know that 8WD got your postcard today, but Brian, Nadine isn't the only one on the floor! Although she was very excited that you (Brian) said HI specifically to her. (Nadine said for everyone not to be jealous) Have a good day

20 February, 2006 12:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kate and Brian, it sure looks like you guys are making the most of this once in a lifetime experience. I love the commentary that goes along with the Beautiful pics kate. Brian, you are a great photographer. please keep the blog going can't wait to see more pics and read more NZ stories.


20 February, 2006 12:21  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I can say is WOW!!!! Great post. I am getting jealous. :)

-Brad R.

21 February, 2006 05:33  
Blogger Erin said...

Wow.. What incredibly beautiful photos. Everytime I look at them I can just imagine the crisp, clean air. NZ certainly seems to be a rare beauty.

21 February, 2006 06:42  
Blogger Beth said...

That's it... I am on the next flight there and I am going with you! I need a break! And nature ROCKS! It really makes all that hard work worth it doesn't? You guys are awesome! Love to you both!

21 February, 2006 08:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love your pictures, as always!! i miss you guys, hope all is going well-- slightly amusing about the tire, does sound like something padre would do haha.... LOVE YOU TAKE CARREEE


27 February, 2006 11:35  

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